Author: Sally Hepworth
The Mother’s Promise is a heartbreaking tale that looks at what happens when you’re alone, and all the different ways that you can be alone. It’s a touching tale of love in all its forms, of facing fears and growth through adversity.
Alice and Zoe are a team of two with no family support and they’re fine with that; they’ve never needed anyone else. It isn’t until Alice gets sick and she’s advised to plan for all eventualities that it strikes her how alone they really are. I am surrounded by family, and friends who are the family I chose, yet still I haven’t been able to put a plan in place for every eventuality. As a parent you want to think you will always be there for your children, you will never need alternate guardians but it’s always a good idea to have a plan in place just in case. What happens when you aren’t surrounded by family and friends? How do you plan for an eventuality you can’t face when there aren’t any suitable guardians in your life?
To make the situation more difficult Zoe isn’t without her own troubles, which makes it imperative to find the right person for the hopefully hypothetical job. Alice is torn between determination that this isn’t going to be necessary, a desire to protect her child and the need to get it right.
The Mother’s Promise is Alice and Zoe’s story but we meet new people along the way that become integral to the story, and we learn their stories alongside Alice and Zoe’s.
In alternating chapters we delve into the lives of Kate and Sonja as well as Alice and Zoe. Kate is one of the nurses treating Alice and Sonja is the social worker assigned to her case. The women get off on the wrong foot but sometimes you find allies in the unlikeliest of corners.
Hepworth writes with heart and with humour, with compassion and with insight. Her story delves into the lives of very different women and sees them face their fears and learn to embrace futures they hadn’t dared consider.
Loneliness and being alone can be very different things. Alice was never lonely, she had everything she needed between Zoe and her business but when it came to thinking about guardianship arrangements she realised just how alone she was. How do you make guardianship arrangements when you have no family or friendship circle support, how do you navigate treatment and appointments without support?
Hepworth explores the aloneness of her characters in different situations, and none of them really felt lonely until we started delving deep into their lives. Characters who were happily married, successful and surrounded by people yet still ultimately alone. Hepworth brings them into a situation where they connect with other people and it helps to facilitate a change and forge bonds that are not easily broken.
The Mother’s Promise was a difficult book to read for me as a mother, just the idea of having to face leaving my children was enough to break my heart. I know that if something happened to me I am surrounded by loving people who would take care of my children but to think what would happen if that wasn’t the case. To put myself in Alice’s shoes and think about leaving my children with no-one I could trust to protect them the way I would, to consider the thought of them ending up in the foster system when they have troubles of their own. This was certainly a book that made me think, about how lucky I am as well as reminding me of the importance of having plans in place.
Hepworth’s writing is insightful and empathetic with colourful and diverse characters that you can’t help but fall a little bit in love with… for the most part. The story is beautifully written and the characters are vividly drawn. The love within the pages is palpable and the blossoming it brings about in Zoe is inspiring to watch.
The Mother’s Promise is well worth the read for everyone and I would recommend it wholeheartedly.
The Mother’s Promise is book #6 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.